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Poetry Terms Beginning With 'C'

Poetry Terms - c. This is a comprehensive resource of poetry terms beginning with the letter c.


Poetry Terminology by Letter


Cadence

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Definition

The natural rhythm of speech - as opposed to the rhythm of meter.


Caesura

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Definition

A caesura, in poetry, is an audible pause that breaks up a line of verse. This may come in the form of any sort of punctuation which causes a pause in speech; such as a comma; semicolon; full stop etc. It is also used in musical notation as a complete cessation of musical time.


Cairo Poets

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Group of poets including Lawrence Durrell and Keith Douglas who were based in North Africa during World War II.


Canon

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Body of work considered to represent the highest literary standards.


Canto

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CANTO (from the Lat. cantus, a song), one of the divisions of a long poem, a convenient division when poetry was more usually sung by the minstrel to his own accompaniment than read. In music, the canto, in a concerted piece, is that part to which the air is given. In modern music this is nearly always the soprano. The old masters, however, more frequently allotted it to the tenor. Canto fermo, or cantus firmus, is that part of the melody which remains true to the original motive, while the other parts vary with the counterpoint; also in Church music the simple straightforward melody of the old chants as opposed to canto figurato, which is full of embellishments of a florid character. The subdivision of a long narrative poem e.g. in The Divine Comedy by Dante. Spenser was the first English poet to use cantos. The Cantos is a long (some would say too long) poem by Ezra Pound.

The subdivision of a long narrative poem e.g. in The Divine Comedy by Dante. Spenser was the first English poet to use cantos. The Cantos is a long (some would say too long) poem by Ezra Pound.


Canzone

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Medieval Italian lyric style poetry with five or six stanzas and a shorter ending stanza.


Carpe Diem

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Latin expression that means 'seize the day.' Carpe diem poems have a theme of living for today.


Catalectic

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(or Catalexis) Where one or more unstressed syllables are missing from the end of a regular metrical line. Usually employed in trochaic or dactylic verse to avoid monotony. The terms derive from the Greek for 'stopping short'. Sometimes referred to as a truncated line. See acatalectic.


Catalectic/Catalexis

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Where one or more unstressed syllables are missing from the end of a regular metrical line. Usually employed in trochaic or dactylic verse to avoid monotony. The terms derive from the Greek for 'stopping short'. Sometimes referred to as a truncated line. See acatalectic.


Catalogue Verse

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Verse which lists people, places, things or ideas e.g. Contemporary Poets of the English Language by Anthony Thwaite.


Catharsis

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Much disputed term used by Aristotle in his Poetics where he suggests that tragedy should purge the emotions of pity and fear and, hence, lead to a catharsis.


Cavalier Poets

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Group of poets including Robert Herrick, Thomas Carew, Sir John Suckling and Richard Lovelace who were all supporters of Charles I. Although not a formal group they were all influenced by Ben Jonson and wrote highly crafted, witty lyrics in praise of wine, women and song. See also Tribe of Ben.


Celtic Twilight

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Originally an anthology of stories by W.B.Yeats, but then adopted as a generic term for literature concerning Irish folk-lore and mysticism.


Cento

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A patchwork poem composed of quotations from other authors. A famous example is Cento Nuptialus by Decimus  Magnus Ausonius.


Chain Rhyme

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The linking together of stanzas by carrying a rhyme over from one stanza to the next. A number of verse forms use chain rhyme as an integral part of their structures. One example is terza rima, which is written in tercets with a rhyming pattern a-b-a, b-c-b, c-d-c. Another is the virelai ancien, which rhymes a-a-b-a-a-b, b-b-c-b-b-c, c-c-d-c-c-d. Other verse forms may also use chain rhyme. For instance, quatrains can be written to the following pattern: a-a-b-a, b-b-c-b, c-c-d-c.


Chanson de Geste

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One of a group of medieval French epic poems.


Chansonnier

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Collection of troubadour poems.


Chant Royal

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The chant royal is a poetic form that consists of five eleven-line stanzas with a rhyme scheme a-b-a-b-c-c-d-d-e-d-E and a five-line envoi rhyming d-d-e-d-E or a seven-line envoi c-c-d-d-e-d-E.

In old French poetry, a poem containing five strophes of eleven lines each, and a concluding stanza - each of these six parts ending with a common refrain.


Chastushka

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A type of traditional Russian poetry, is a single quatrain in trochaic tetrameter with an abab or abcb rhyme scheme. Usually humorous, satirical, or ironic in nature, chastushkas are often put to music as well, usually with balalaika or accordion accompaniment. The rigid, short structure (and, to a lesser degree, the type of humor used) parallels limericks in British culture.


Chaucerian Stanza

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See rhyme royal.


Cheville

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Stopgap word used by a poet to furnish the required number of syllables in a metrical line.


Chiasmus

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Figure of speech where the second half of a phrase reverses the order of the first half e.g. Samuel Johnson's "For we that live to please, must please to live."


Choka

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The most intricate Japanese Poetry form is the Choka, or Long Poem.

The early form consisted of a series of Katuata joined together. This gives a choice of form structures of ..... 5 - 7 - 7 - 5 - 7 - 7.. etc, or .. 5 - 7 - 5 - 5 - 7 - 5.. etc.


Choree

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See trochee.


Choriambic Meter

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Classical meter consisting of four syllables per foot: one long, two short and one long. Choriambic meter has its origins in Greek poetry and is very rarely used in English.


Choriambic Verse

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CHORIAMBIC VERSE, or Choriambics, the name given to Greek or Latin lyrical poetry in which the sound of the choriambus predominates. The choriambus is a verse-foot consisting of a trochee united with and preceding an iambus, -∪∪-. The choriambi are never used alone, but are usually preceded by a spondee and followed by an iambus. The line so formed is called an asclepiad, traditionally because it was invented by the Aeolian poet Asclepiades of Samos. Choriambic verse was first used by the poets of the Greek islands, and Sappho, in particular, produced magnificent effects with it. The measure, as used by the early Greeks, is essentially lyrical and impassioned. Mingled with other metres, it was constantly serviceable in choral writing, to which it was believed to give a stormy and mysterious character. The Greater Asclepiad was a term used for a line in which the wild music was prolonged by the introduction of a supplementary choriambus. This was much employed by Sappho and by Alcaeus, as well as in Alexandrian times by Callimachus and Theocritus. Among the Latins, Horace, in imitation of Alcaeus, made constant use of choriambic verse. Metrical experts distinguish six varieties of it in his Odes. This is an example of his greater asclepiad (Od. i. 11):


Chorizontes

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CHORIZONTES (“separators”), the name given to the Alexandrian critics who denied the single authorship of the Iliad and Odyssey, and held that the latter poem was the work of a later poet. The most important of them were the grammarians Xeno and Hellanicus; Aristarchus was their chief opponent (see Homer).


Chorus

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Part of a poem or song that is repeated after each verse. See refrain.


Cinqku

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Cinqku: invented by Denis Garrison as a closer analogue to haiku than the American Cinquain (Adelaide Crapsey), minimizing the utility of the line break technique. Cinqku follows a strict 17 syllable count arranged in five successive lines of 2-3-4-6-2 syllables. No title is used for single verse cinqku poems which are written in haiku- style free diction and syntax with no metrical requirement; a turn is used that may be similar to kireji in haiku or cinquain. Sequence, crown, and mirror, cinqku may be titled.


Cinquain

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The modern cinquain is based on a word count of words of a certain type.

Line 1 has one word (the title).
Line 2 has two words that describe the title.
Line 3 has three words that tell the action.
Line 4 has four words that express the feeling
Line 5 has one word which recalls the title.

The traditional cinquain is based on a syllable count. Twenty-Two syllables in the following pattern (2-4-6-8-2) The traditional cinquain is based on a syllable count. It has five lines, and often, one word in the first line, two words in the second line etc.

line 1 - 2 syllables
line 2 - 4 syllables
line 3 - 6 syllables
line 4 - 8 syllables
line 5 - 2 syllables


. The traditional cinquain is based on a syllable count. line 1 - 2 syllables line 2 - 4 syllables line 3 - 6 syllables line 4 - 8 syllables line 5 - 2 syllables The modern cinquain is based on a word count of words of a certain type. line 1 - one word (noun) a title or name of the subject line 2 - two words (adjectives) describing the title line 3 - three words (verbs) describing an action related to the title line 4 - four words describing a feeling about the title, a complete sentence line 5 - one word referring back to the title of the poem

There are more variations of the Cinquain form.


Classical Poets

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Pre-Christian Roman and Greek poets such as Homer, Horace, Virgil, Ovid etc. Classicism is characterised by a sense of formality and restraint. See also neo-classicism. The romantic movement was a reaction against the constraints of neo-classicism.


Classical Poets/Poetry

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Pre-Christian Roman and Greek poets such as Homer, Horace, Virgil, Ovid etc. Classicism is characterised by a sense of formality and restraint. See also neo-classicism. The romantic movement was a reaction against the constraints of neo-classicism.


Classicism

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Poetry which holds the principles and ideals of beauty that are characteristic of Greek and Roman art, architecture, and literature.


Clerihew

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A Clerihew (or clerihew) is a very specific kind of short humorous verse, typically with the following properties: It is biographical and usually whimsical, showing the subject from an unusual point of view; but it is hardly ever satirical, abusive or obscene; It has four lines of irregular length (for comic effect); The first line consists solely (or almost solely) of a well-known person's name.


Cliche

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An overused word or phrase.


Clogyrnach

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Welsh syllabic verse form. See awdl.


Close Reading

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The careful and vigorous examination of literary texts; a technique advocated by the New Critics.


Closed Syllables

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Closed syllables are syllables that have at least one consonant following the vowel. The most common closed syllable is the CVC syllable.


Cockney School

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Term coined by Blackwood's Magazine in 1817 to describe poets of humble London origin such as Leigh Hunt and John Keats. Keats was described as a man 'who had left a decent calling (pharmacy) for the melancholy trade of Cockney-poetry'.


Coda

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The tail, tag, outro, envoi or concluding passage of a piece of writing.


Common Measure

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Quatrain featuring alternating lines of iambic tetrameter and iambic trimeter and an a-b-a-b rhyming scheme. Many hymns are written in common measure. See Light Shining Out of Darkness by Cowper. See also ballad.


Complaint

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Poetic form derived from the Latin in which poets bewail social evils or the vicissitudes of life e.g. Complaint to his Purse by Geoffrey Chaucer.


Conceit

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An elaborate and complicated metaphor. An early exponent of conceits was the 14th Century Italian poet Petrarch. The Petrarchan conceit was imitated by many Elizabethan poets including Shakespeare. Conceits were also used extensively by the metaphysical poets. John Donne famously compared two lovers to a pair of compasses in his poem A Valediction: forbidding Mourning.


Concrete

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A concrete poem is one that takes the shape of the object it describes. This is different from a Shape poem, in that a Shape poem does NOT have to take the shape of the object it describes.


Confessional Poetry

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A 20th century term used to describe poetry that uses intimate material from the poet’s life. Confessional poetry is normally written using the 'I' form. The American poet Robert Lowell pioneered confessional verse with his 1959 collection Life Studies.


Connotation

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The emotional response evoked by a word or the associations called up by a word that goes beyond its dictionary meaning.


Consonance

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A stylistic device, often used in poetry. It is the repetition of consonant sounds in a short sequence of words, for example, the "t" sound in "Is it blunt and flat?" Alliteration differs from consonance insofar as alliteration requires the repeated consonant sound to be at the beginning of each word, where in consonance it is anywhere within the word, although often at the end. In half rhyme, the terminal consonant sound is repeated. A special species of consonance is using a series of sibilant sounds (/s/ and /sh/ for example); this is sometimes known simply as sibilance.


Consonants

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All the letters of the alphabet except the vowels a, e, i, o and u.


Content

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The subject matter of a poem - as opposed to the form.


Couplet

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Rhyming stanzas made up of two lines. A pair of lines of a verse that form a unit. Some couplets rhyme aa, but this is not a requirement.


COUPLET, a pair of lines of verse, which are welded together by an identity of rhyme. The New English Dict. derives the use of the word from the French couplet, signifying two pieces of iron riveted or hinged together. In rhymed verse two lines which complete a meaning in themselves are particularly known as a couplet. Thus, in Pope’s Eloisa to Abelard:—

“Speed the soft intercourse from soul to soul,

And waft a sigh from Indus to the Pole.”

In much of old English dramatic literature, when the mass of the composition is in blank verse or even in prose, particular emphasis is given by closing the scene in a couplet. Thus, in the last act of Beaumont and Fletcher’s Thierry and Theodoret the action culminates in an unexpected rhyme:—

“And now lead on; they that shall read this story

Shall find that virtue lives in good, not glory.”

In French literature, the term couplet is not confined to a pair of lines, but is commonly used for a stanza. A “square” couplet, in French, for instance, is a strophe of eight lines, each composed of eight syllables. In this sense it is employed to distinguish the more emphatic parts of a species of verse which is essentially gay, graceful and frivolous, such as the songs in a vaudeville or a comic opera. In the 18th century, Le Sage, Piron and even Voltaire did not hesitate to engage their talents on the production of couplets, which were often witty, if they had no other merit, and were well fitted to catch the popular ear. This signification of the word couplet is not unknown in England, but it is not customary; it is probably used in a stricter and a more technical sense to describe a pair of rhymed lines, whether serious or merry. The normal type, as it may almost be called, of English versification is the metre of ten-syllabled rhymed lines designated as heroic couplet. This form of iambic verse, with five beats to each line, is believed to have been invented by Chaucer, who employs it first in the Prologue The Legend of Good Women the composition of which is attributed to the year 1385. That poem opens with the couplet:—

“A thousand times have I heard man tell

That there is joy in heaven and pain in hell.”

This is an absolutely correct example of the heroic couplet, which ultimately reached such majesty in the hands of Dryden and such brilliancy in those of Pope. It has been considered proper for didactic, descriptive and satirical poetry, although in the course of the 19th century blank verse largely took its place. Epigram often selects the couplet as the vehicle of its sharpened arrows, as in Sir John Harington’s

“Treason doth never prosper: what’s the reason?

Why, if it prosper, none dare call it treason.”


Cowboy

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Definition

Cowboy poetry is rhymed, metered verse written by someone who has lived a significant portion of his or her life in Western North American cattle culture. The verse reflects an intimate knowledge of that way of life, and the community from which it maintains itself in tradition.


Cowleyan Ode

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See ode.


Cross Rhyme

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Where a word at the end of a line rhymes with a word in the middle of the next/previous line.


Crown of Sonnets

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A crown of sonnets or sonnet corona is a sequence of sonnets, usually addressed to some one person, and/or concerned with a single theme. It is a 7-sonnet sequence in which the last line of each sonnet is repeated in the first line of the next. The first and last lines of the sequence are also strict repetends; this gives the sequence its crown-like circularity.


Crystalline

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A two line image poem, often with a title, in which euphony is the key factor. Each line may have 8 or 9 syllables to make a total of seventeen.


Cubist Poetry

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Poetry that seeks to emulate Picasso's 'sum of destructions' e.g. the work of the French poet Guillaume Apollinaire.


Curtal Sonnet

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The curtal sonnet is a form invented by Gerard Manley Hopkins, and used in three of his poems. It is an eleven-line (or, more accurately, ten-and-a-half-line) sonnet, but rather than the first eleven lines of a standard sonnet it consists of precisely ¾ of the structure of a Petrarchan sonnet shrunk proportionally. The octave of a sonnet becomes a sestet and the sestet a quatrain plus an additional "tail piece." That is, the first eight lines of a sonnet are translated into the first six lines of a curtal sonnet and the last six lines of a sonnet are translated into the last four and a half lines of a curtal sonnet.


Cut-Up

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Technique where a poet/writer cuts up a text with a pair of scissors and reassembles it randomly - hoping to create something fresh or unusual. David Bowie used this technique when writing the lyrics for Aladdin Sane. 


Cyhydedd

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Welsh syllabic verse form. There are various versions including: the cyhydedd hir and the cyhydedd naw ban.


Cynghanedd

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(pronounced kun-ghah-nedh) Intricate Welsh system of alliteration and rhyme. It is impossible to replicate in English but the following line from Hopkins's The Wreck of the Deutschland gives an approximation: 'The down-dugged ground-hugged grey'.


Cyrch a Chwta

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Welsh syllabic verse form.


Cywydd

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Metrical form developed by the Welsh poet Dafydd ap Gwilym which consists of rhyming couplets with seven syllables per line. There are four separate cywydd forms: awdl gywydd, cywydd deuair hirion, cywydd deuair fyrion and cywydd llosgyrnog. See Welsh forms.